Search This Blog

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Shameful Plug from The Ripple…

Soaring swansReaders of The Ripple know its mission is to report the news, pure and simple. If there is news out in the Valley, The Ripple is sure to ferret it out; The Ripple will make a point to hunt the news down and report it. If a story breaks in The Ripple, it is the same as reading an article in The New York Sun: you know has to be true (“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”). Because The Ripple has set such high journalistic standards where the news is concerned, it has scoffed at other print media that resort to “The Classified Ads,”an obvious attempt to add revenue to keep its editorial pages alive. Until this post, that is.

In various posts I have alluded to my history growing up on an apple ranch along the Columbia River in Eastern Washington. In 1967 my riverbank was flooded by the Well’s Dam Hydroelectric Project and my boyhood playground turned lake under forty feet of water. When I retired from thirty-one years of teaching in 2000, a top priority of mine was to record the history of my years on the riverbank for my daughter and share with her my childhood experiences in a place now submerged beneath the waters of a lake, a place she would never know. I guess you could say I started the “research” for my writing project in 1953, when our family moved to the riverbank, and in 2003, fifty years later, my ten years spent there became 208 pages of narrative between the covers of a book.

For three months I worked with the Snohomish Publishing Company preparing the manuscript for publication. One day in late November Jeff Wise of Snohomish Publishing called to say the printing plates were made and if I wanted to come to the print shop, I could watch the presses roll and print my book. Very exciting it was to watch the words and sentences recounting ten years of my childhood roll through the machinery and emerge as pages of a book. A few days later I picked up seven boxes of books, 260 in that printing, and for Christmas 2003, each member of the family received a personalized copy of my riverbank memoir.

Last May only ten copies of the book remained, and I considered not only doing a second printing, but a revised edition to add a bit more artwork, narrative, and address a few minor editing issues whose presence in the first edition were bothersome to me. When I considered returning to the traditional publishing method, my son-in-law Avi suggested I explore the alternative print on demand service, have my second edition published as an e-book. A more cost-efficient way of publishing, print on demand books are just that: books printed and distributed according to demand. Thus the author doesn’t have the expense of having large lots of books printed at once. The cost for each book is commission-based; the publisher takes a certain percentage of each unit to cover his expenses and turn a slight profit. After much nervous deliberation (the process required computer skills I wasn’t sure I possessed), I decided I’d venture into cyberspace and see what happened.

There are several publish on demand internet businesses. I chose’s service because it offered the greatest potential for exposure and distribution; your book would be included in Amazon’s vast inventory of books, sitting there on the world wide shelf of books, so to speak, for the whole world to see.

I nearly aborted the new venture at the outset; for some odd reason I was reluctant to relinquish control of my manuscript to a company I had no experience with, send it off to people I had never met and most likely never would. (Their publishing center is in South Carolina). I reasoned, though, that I owned the copyright to my book regardless of wherever it wandered, wherever it roamed, so in late May I set up an online account with the company, and after some preliminary assistance from Avi, sent my manuscript off into the void.

Thus began my book’s second edition odyssey, an adventure that concluded at last (whew!) this past week. What began as a fascinating experience grew tedious during the final days of the process. And at the expense of being tedious myself—and for any who might want to take the journey themselves one day—I’ll give you a brief, guided tour of my experience.

Let me preface the following by stating that my having a book to begin with, or so I thought, should expedite publishing a second edition. I first sent two “physical copies” of my book so the front and back cover images could be formatted. The book has artwork and the graphics had to be sent as a separate file. Then the placement of the graphics had to be synchronized with chapter and section headings. At each step I was emailed an “interior proof”to either approve or request changes. To accept the proof, of course, meant I had to reread the entire manuscript each time a revised version was sent me. (Being the sole editor of one’s work reminds one of the saying: “He who chooses to defend himself in a court of law has a fool for an attorney.” The author is too close to his own words to see typos and grammatical errors.)

My initial goal in the editing process was to free the original manuscript from its previous little imperfections. This I did with ease. I added more text but mistakenly used the word “considerately” for “considerably” (too close to your word tree to see the sentence forest???) This I corrected and a new interior proof was sent for my approval. Strangely enough—and frustrating to no end—finally only spacing issues remained. Editors need to “justify” (set flush) left and right hand margins. In the process, greater space between words is necessary to justify a line and the line has to be adjusted manually to accomplish this and keep the spacing consistent. At this point I had two spacing issues I needed to address: consistency in spacing between words in justified lines; and dash lengths (hyphens, dashes, en dashes and em dashes are each a different length). I know all this fine tuning seems incredibly picayune, but, hey, it’s a part of your life, your work, your words,  isn’t it? “If it’s not right, what’s the point?” “Dash it all,” I told my project team. Changes were made and finally I was no longer “spaced out.”

It is a most satisfying moment when the “physical proof” arrives on your doorstep for your approval; you hold YOUR book in your hand, thumb through its pages: graphics look fine, are placed correctly; section headings match the narrative; the font is pleasing to the eye. But wait! What’s this! On pages 78 and 166 a single line per page has a spacing issue (three spaces instead of two between two words each). Do I approve this liberal spacing in two lines of a 202 page book? Would the editor of The Ripple concede to “close is good enough?” I clicked the “request changes” button, and yet another “physical proof” was headed my way for approval--accompanied by an email informing me any additional changes would cost fifty dollars. (Picayune doesn’t come cheap.)

After twenty-one emails, many phone conversations with “member support” and my “project team,” eight “interior proof”changes and two “physical proof”revisions, my e-publishing experience concluded last week when the two revised proofs arrived via UPS. Pages 78 and 166 were no longer spacey. I immediately went to the computer and clicked the “approve proof” button. Mission Accomplished!

Black Friday is behind us. Tomorrow is cyber-Monday, and I’m ashamed to say The Ripple, too, has succumbed to the flurry of crass commercialism. Readers who have found The Ripple entertaining  might find equally  engaging the story of young boy and his adventures growing up on an apple orchard along the banks of the Columbia River in the 1950’s. And so for this post The Ripple has added a “classified section” with only one listing: www.createspace/3614533. There will be no further classified pages in any subsequent posts of The Ripple. That’s a promise. You read it here. And if you read it in The Ripple, you know it’s true.

(Note: special thanks to Avi for his encouragement and assistance in helping me navigate the perilous shoals and reefs of cyber-publishing.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Valley Walk Leads to…Well, Embarrassment…

Just a memoryThe Valley skies took a momentary breather this morning, withheld their latest deluge long enough for me to take a walk unscathed by rain. It’s been a while since I’ve visited the Valley. One thing or another, you know; we all have our “one thing or anothers” that keep us from doing what’s best for us, which in my case is to get out of the house, move around a bit, get some exercise.

It was good to get out in the rain-washed air. The Valley has settled into winter dormancy; not much going on out there these days unless you’re a commuting trumpeter swan gliding from one barren cornfield to the next. My return trip takes me by Jerald and Tina Streutkers’ old house on the corner. I stop and pick an apple off the golden delicious apple tree I’ve pruned a time or two for Jerald. I take a bite. The apple is sweet and juicy—golden deliciousy, and that sets me to thinking about Jerald, about Tina, about the days I used to walk by and see them both working in their yard and garden… about how I miss seeing them there these days. I marveled then and continue to marvel at how they used to keep that one little acre so neat and trim, always a Valley showplace, a pleasure to walk or ride past.

And it’s those thoughts that bring me to the Hallmark Store in town. I’m looking for a card to send to Jerald and Tina c/o Merrill Gardens in town, a card wishing them both a Happy Thanksgiving, let them know I’m thinking about our former neighbors. As soon as I swing open the door, I’m assaulted by Christmas. Snow globes, pricey ornaments, Christmas carol white noise, flash and glitter everywhere…Christmas cards for her, Christmas cards for him, for son, daughter, third cousin removed on your mother’s side of the family. Are dogs and cats sending Christmas cards these days? Hey, here’s a Christmas card for my dentist. Yeah, like I’m going to spend one more dollar on that fellow… Really! Pushing the envelope of holiday spirit a bit too far, a bit too soon….

But I’m here for a Thanksgiving card. “There are more Christmas cards on the other side,” a cheerful help-the consumer-spend-his money voice informs me. She’s right. Another twenty foot section of Merry Christmas greetings confronts me. Across the aisle yet more Christmas cards, boxes and boxes of them, and there on the far end of that row of shelves, scarcely an arm’s length from the sympathy cards, were the Thanksgiving cards, a generous four foot (if that) display. I know--it’s the last minute; Thanksgiving is only two days away, but still…only four feet…? (Apparently dogs and cats don’t acknowledge Thanksgiving.) A lady, one holiday ahead of me, is having problems of her own among the boxes of Christmas cards. “Looks like Thanksgiving has been given short shrift,” I complain. “Yes, they kind of kick Thanksgiving to the curb, don’t they,” she laughs. I find at the most three suitable cards, and while they’re not exactly what I’m looking for, each might do. Decisions, decisions….

I select a card whose sentiment arrives in the general vicinity of what I wish to express. I’ll only have to cross out one word and add two more. Then it’ll be just about right. I proceed to the cash register; I need to post the card today lest it be belated and encroach on the legitimate Christmas season. “Did you find what you needed?” the cheery voice asks. At this juncture I decide to stand up for Thanksgiving, be an advocate for this traditional holiday for giving thanks. Just four feet? Where’s the holiday justice here? “You certainly don’t have much of a selection in the way of Thanksgiving cards,” I reply in a tone just shy of huffiness. (Well…maybe I was a bit huffy.) Pause. Now we’re in a tone contest: hers is no longer cheerful, a bit brusque, I would say. (Yes, brusque…definitely brusque.) She looks me straight in the eye and proceeds to justify the paucity of cards in the Thanksgiving section:

“We have a customer,” she explains, “who comes in  before Thanksgiving each year and buys five hundred Thanksgiving cards for our service men and women serving overseas. This is what she chooses to do with her extra money: buy greeting cards. She doesn’t buy for herself, her relatives or friends. She buys the cards, addresses the envelopes, sees to the postage and sends them off.”

“So how big a section did you set aside for Thanksgiving, then?” I’m more tentative now. You might even say a bit subdued. “Twelve feet,”is the answer.

We’ve all had situations where we wish we’d just kept our mouths shut. I’ve just shared one of mine with you. Happy Thanksgiving from The Ripple!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

From Our Valley to Theirs…

Sky Valley FBAnother fall pancake breakfast under my belt. As I’m about to exit the Grange, I notice a large cardboard box perched on a table just inside the door. In honesty I have to admit it’s the word “Free” that catches my eye. That and the fact the “free” stuff is a box of quince. Now I’m perhaps the Valley’s biggest (and only) grower and advocate of quince. On the back of the property I planted a quince tree of my own four years ago, and it has exceeded all my quince expectations. The particulars of my quince experience I posted last fall:( “A Breath of Fresh Air in the Valley…,” 10/30/2010.)

Mrs. Butch Olsen brought the quince to the Grange in hopes some of the breakfasters might find a use for the fruit in their fall cooking. (I’ve supplemented quince with apples in my mincemeat recipe.) This crop looked to me like windfalls, just a bit beyond their window of usefulness. Mrs. Butch remarked if no one seemed interested in the “free” produce, she might take the box to the Sky Valley Food Bank. “I heard the Hispanics use the fruit in some way,”she said. The big box of quince, plus Mrs. Olsen’s intent to share it with the food bank, got me to thinking about my own plentiful crop of quince and other excess produce in the backyard garden. Quince, anyone

A few days later I roll to a stop in the delivery lot of the downtown Sky Valley Food Bank and unload a large box of peppers (caliente!), a half bucket of tomatillos, a large bag of dried walnuts—and a milk crate brimming with freshly picked quince. The produce weighs in at 78 pounds, bringing my season’s contribution over the summer to nearly 150 pounds. I take aside Ruth, one of the volunteers, (Ruth happens to be the mother of Coach Marilyn, my daughter’s softball coach a couple decades back) and we discuss the produce I’ve brought in this morning. As we talk, the other volunteers are already bagging the quince. None among them have heard of the fruit, know anything about it. I tell them quince is used in fruit preserves, jelly in particular…that it’s a fruit prized by the English and it also makes a great air freshener for your house or car. Next into bags are the peppers. The volunteers seem to know to separate the “hot” from the “cool.” The Food Bank is very appreciative of anything you bring in: even zucchini, regardless if it’s the size of watermelons. (“Oh, we get them bigger than that,” a volunteer said when I dropped off several hefty green cylinders a few weeks back.)

You have only to wander through the produce section of a grocery store to understand why those who struggle to put healthy food on the table shake their heads at the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables, pass them by and head for the inexpensive, less nutritious foodstuffs. Apples over two dollars a pound; winter squash seventy-nine cents a pound; leaf lettuce nearly two dollars a bundle; even zucchini out of season is over a dollar a pound. And the “organic” (just what does “organic” mean, anyway?) produce section seems to require a second mortgage on the house. 

So I started thinking about our own small garden plot, all the food it provides us and the excess it yields (you’d expect a little surplus from fifty-six pepper plants, I guess). We have, perhaps, a garden about one-sixth of an acre in size, and our pantry shelves are brimming with home canned produce from that small plot. Why didn’t I take more to the food bank before the frosts ruined much of the excess?

I think, too, about all the produce our Valley yields, how much of it must certainly go to waste.Pumpkin wasteland Case in point: the pumpkin and squash field south of the Lower Loop bridge. The pumpkins don’t even appear to have been harvested. And beyond their rows I see butternut squash hunkered down there waiting to find their way to someone’s dinner table.Squash at loose ends In years past I have seen fields of produce lying unused, wasting away, a scant mile away from a distribution center that could disseminate Valley nutrition to those who need and could use the surplus. Willie Green's Green Grocery

This season the tomato greenhouses at Willie Green’s Organic farms hung heavy with beautiful, blight-free tomatoes. Were all those marketed? I wonder. Not meant to be critical, but all those rows of sweet corn in the Frohnings’ family garden? Can one family eat that much corn? Just a thought. I’ve seen bean rows at Broers’ Farms laden with beans right up until the field is cleared. Did more than necessary end up as compost? (Although I did take two five gallon buckets of my own beans to Sky Valley FB, I admit I should have taken more; I see beans going to waste in my own bean row, now dangling there limp, moldy and black.)

A little more Food Bank food for thought: Thanksgiving is next week. The city’s service groups will be camped out at the entrances of local grocery stores taking donations for the less fortunate, counting on the spirit of the season to prod the charitable natures of those who have excess to give. During the holiday season this display of community  service is always somewhat unsettling to me…almost as if these well-meaning groups are taking advantage of the festive season to leverage their cause. What about the other ten months of the year? Isn’t mealtime a daily event and putting food on the dinner table an important part of the day’s routine? Each national holiday I notice flags lining the streets, testimony to the patriotism of the community, but doesn’t the need for food and sustenance remain the same regardless of the day of the month? Perhaps these civic-minded groups should man their stations at least once a month to remind the public that food is a daily need; biannual feasts will hardly sustain a family the other 363 days of the year.

If we tend to be selfish about anything, we’re most selfish with our time; it seems there is never quite enough to go around, to accomplish all we need to do—or set out to do—during our busy days. (Even fewer minutes now that it’s Standard Time--unless one works well in the dark.) Granted, it takes time to harvest the surplus produce; granted, too, a trip to the Food Bank steals more time yet. But I look at it this way: if I spend the time to plant and grow the crop, I owe it to myself to see the food is used prudently—and with the least amount of wastage possible.

I recall there used to be a charity organization, that if notified, would send volunteers to gardens and farms to harvest the excess and transport it to food distribution centers. Most organizations like Northwest Harvest rely on cash donations; as far as I know, NWH has no procedure in place to send volunteers out to the countryside, harvest excess produce, and see that it makes its way to local food banks. Such an effort, I would think, could harvest the excess from our Valley and see that it was put to good use.

Now is the time to lay out next year’s garden. I suggest you consider our local food banks and plant extra crops: one more row of corn, an additional pole or hill of beans, a few more hills of potatoes, add a half dozen feet to that row of beets. As far as zucchini? Plant a couple extra seeds: even if the fruit grows to watermelon size, the Sky Valley Food Bank will take it and put those  excess squash logs to good use.

Note: the Sky Valley Food bank accepts donation drop offs Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. For additional information, give them a call: (360)-794-7959.SVFB food wagon

And a post script: The Ripple has heard a rumor that the Jim Werkhovens plant a communal cornfield adjacent to their home and Sargent Road. This year the field lies fallow. Just wondering why….

Friday, November 11, 2011

Seeking the High Ground in the Valley…

Swan Valley

The summer’s swaying corn is just a memory now; only stubble stipples the barren fields. Perhaps that’s why at the distant reaches of a field a flash of white catches my eye. I turn and am suddenly a witness to mortal combat, a struggle for life and death in the Valley. A hawk has singled out a pigeon, separated it from its flock. The hawk has the advantage of altitude, the high ground, swoops down on its prey. The pigeon slips sideways, escapes the first attack. The hawk’s momentum sweeps it aloft again. A second assault. A second time the pigeon dodges death. Meanwhile, the flock  has frantically circled higher, spiraling upwards, gaining height, seeking safety in altitude. Now aloft high over the scene, the pigeons watch as their comrade escapes the hawk’s final assault and darts into the safety of some cottonwoods. Birds know to seek the high ground when a hawk is prowling around the neighborhood.

On a walk out in the Valley a couple years ago I saw a bald eagle badgering a seagull in the same field. Neither had the high ground and the eagle was more an aggravation than a threat. In mortal warfare the army that holds the high ground always has the advantage. Had the English not been lured from the ridge of Senlac Hill during the Battle of Hastings we wouldn’t have the extra baggage of some nine hundred French words that bullied their way into English (consult the etymologies of “quilt, veal, surgeon, chess,” oh, and  check “baggage,” too, while you’re at it). 

Yes, altitude is all important: take the altimeter, for instance, that invaluable instrument that warns the aircraft pilot how far away he is from making a very hard landing. Perhaps that’s why the World War I flying ace Snoopy time after time has his Sopwith Camel blasted out of the sky by the Baron’s Fokker D-7: the Baron always has the advantage of altitude. Little surprise then (aside from the fact Snoopy’s doghouse has no engine or wings) that the bold little beagle is bested in every “dog”fight; even in cartoon land you can’t teach an old dog new tricks .

You know, I can’t help thinking the life and death conflict I witnessed between the pigeon and hawk might well serve as a kind of metaphor for life in general. As we go about our routines, don’t we try to maintain  the “upper hand” over our daily problems, take the “higher road,” not the lower? Every day we struggle for a few extra wing beats to keep ourselves upright and perpendicular.

Here it is November already, historically the time of the year the Valley experiences its worst floods, and I’m thinking the next few weeks we Valley folks could use all the altitude we can get.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Decision not Made Lightly…

blushing Grange

“Regular or cinnamon?”There at my left elbow is Applesauce Betty smiling down at me.  It’s hardly nine a.m. Saturday morning. The weekend. My coffee hasn’t had a chance to work its magic yet. Already I’m being pressured to make a decision.

Earlier I paid my five dollars for the Tualco Valley Grange pancake breakfast, applesauce edition. I complained as always about the cost, asked if I qualified for a Senior discount, and Allen Barr reminded me that what I’m about to be served is indeed a bargain. But complaining doesn’t cost me anything, so I decide to get my money’s worth. Allan is disappointed there’s only one of me. Usually that’s one too many for most folks, but money’s at issue here, I guess. When I see the only discount I’m getting is Allen’s stubborn smile, I look around for a breakfast spot.

I decide to give Rich and Judy Cabe the pleasure of my company. “Is this seat taken?” I ask. “It is now,”Rich replies. Hardly had I scooted in my chair and removed my hat than I heard the cheerful voice of the applesauce lady. “Regular or cinnamon?” But this is where you came in, right? Now I’m a traditionalist in every sense; and its only grudgingly I order an Americano when all I want is a good cup of coffee, coffee just like you’d get at a truck stop cafĂ©. Now I have to decide if I want additives in my breakfast appetizer. “Why, cinnamon, of course,” I request, and Betty selects of dish of dusky colored sauce from her tray and places it before me.

Rich and Judy have already finished their breakfast, and I gather the only reason Rick lingers is because he’s putting off the home front chores as long as possible. (After all, it’s the weekend.) I plan to follow his example. Betty brings my breakfast and as she places it before me, I ask her about the spring pancake breakfast.“Did you have the strawberry edition this year?” Betty hesitates, shakes her head, expressing her disappointment. “No, we didn’t. The strawberries were just too expensive!” What a shame, I think…a Valley full of berries and the Grange can’t serve up a single one. “Rhubarb,” I say. “Maybe you should serve rhubarb sauce instead. There’s plenty of rhubarb, you know.” Betty turns up her nose: “Rhubarb? No. I don’t like rhubarb for breakfast.” “It’s pretty tasty if you sprinkle a little cinnamon on it,” I inform her. She shakes her head and hurries back to the kitchen.

I look down at my breakfast and it is a carbon copy of all the breakfasts I’ve ever been served at the grange. It’s as if the cooks employ templates for each portion served: same small heap of scrambled eggs; thin slice of ham I can see through (the plate is spic and span, very hygienic looking); and Wally apparently has a governor on that batter machine of his. If I hadn’t ordered the cinnamon applesauce, I would have broken even on the portions. Rich passes me the syrup, and I squeeze out a more than liberal amount on my two saucer-sized pancakes.

Between bites I chat with Rich but can’t uncover much news. I look around for familiar faces, notice Matt Beebe and daughter examining one of the old photographs on the wall. Matt directs a finger toward a few faces, using the photograph as a lesson in Valley history is my guess. Tim and Sandy Frohning have answered the call to breakfast and make their way to the end of my table. Tim and I exchange our customary verbal parries and then he thanks The Ripple for its post about son Matt ( “A Man Outstanding in his Field,” 10/23) and congratulates the press for its accurate and insightful reporting of the afternoon spent with the young man chopping corn. But I’m not the least surprised: if nothing else, The Ripple is spot-on accurate. Over 160 posts published without a single correction or retraction.

Butch Olsen strolls over to our table, interrupts our conversation, and asks if I’m the guy who writes about the Valley, the guy who has the bees? “Yes and yes,” I confess. It seems everybody has a personal bee story to share. “They hate me,”Butch complains. “Every time I go out in the woods I get bee bit! Why do you suppose that is?” “Maybe you need to change your aftershave?” I offer. Butch puzzles over this a moment, gives me a look, shakes his head and returns to kitchen duty. Rich and Judy stand to leave…those chores, I guess. I drain my third cup of coffee, say my good-byes, and head out the door toward my own chores. After all, I need to work off that heavy breakfast.

A day or two later I meet Betty and her sister uptown. “How’d the breakfast go?” I ask. “Better than I expected,” Sister replied, “we served 54.” “You would have had better attendance had you whetted their appetites with strawberries last spring,” I tell her. When I suggest the rhubarb alternative, Sis wrinkles her nose. “I don’t like rhubarb for breakfast,” she says.

That cinnamon applesauce was quite tasty, I must admit. A very good decision, it turned out. By the way, tomorrow is election day. I just dropped off my ballot at the library this afternoon (and saved forty-four cents I can set aside for next year’s pancake breakfast). “Regular or cinnamon?” I wish all decisions were that easy.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Study in Valley Economics…

Rolling stock

Please bear with this post as The Ripple strays briefly beyond the Valley into the realm of personal finances. I trust it will wander back before too long, but I’m afraid I can’t make any promises.

Far be it from me to spearhead an Occupy the Valley protest, but I’m ever vigilant these days about what I call “fee creep,” the “incoming” fee surge targeting us consumers. The most flagrant of this creepiness of late is the bold announcement by Bank of America that starting January 1, Big City Bank of America will charge its clients a five dollar a month fee for using their debit cards to pay charges and bills with their own money. I’m not running for public office, so I’m not required to disclose my personal finances but I don’t mind sharing the fact that just the other day I learned I now have to pay my bank to keep my money there.

Long gone are the days when the public schoolroom taught schoolchildren the importance of saving and the role The Bank plays in fostering this good habit. The Bank, we learned, kept our money safe—and paid us to do so: “interest,” it was called because The Bank rewarded us for our “interest” in Them as a place to keep our money safe. Once a week was bank day (Fridays, maybe?). I would slip a dime or a dime and a nickel in my pocket and head for the bus stop. At some designated time our teacher would distribute the little banking envelopes with the two plastic discs around which we wrapped a waxed piece of string figure eight fashion to secure our weekly deposit for safe transit to The Bank. Filling out the deposit slip and checking the subsequent balance weekly involved us in what today’s modern classroom would term “consumer math.”And we could see, young as we were, our savings grow weekly, monthly, and at school year’s end, what we had saved—plus the interest.

Yes, now I have to pay to keep my money safe. Our last month’s checkings statement showed a two dollar service charge, The Bank’s gentle exhortation for us to “go green,” forego paper statements and bank online (where we’ll really be at their mercy). Jokingly I used to ask the bank tellers if they’d please give me a call when The Bank began charging me to keep my money there. Last month my little nest egg at The Bank yielded seventy-nine cents interest. Hmmmm… they pay me $.79…I pay them two dollars. No joke there, yet I’m not about to gather up my camping gear, head for The Bank’s parking lot and pitch a tent.

I don’t know if there’s a more potent concoction than a brew made of government and Wall Street. The government suddenly limits the amount of money banks can charge retailers to accept bank cards. Now Big City Bank has to recover this lost revenue and suddenly we find ourselves paying The Bank for the privilege of doing business with them.The Barrell Store

With the help of the Barrell Man let me wander back to the Valley. Back in August I posted about inflation here and expressed my outrage at the fifty % increase in the price of a barrell (“Inflation Strikes the Valley…,” 8/5). I notice the Barrell Man’s inventory is flush these days. For a while this summer nothing but weeds flourished in the space. A few days ago I saw him gathering the walnuts from his driveway. His sight has dimmed and these days the Barrell Man finds most of the mast with the tip of his cane. He will be ninety come February, the Barrell Man tells me, and when he goes about his chores, he relies on a portable oxygen pack to help him get around. He is still active, up and out, completing what needs to be done about his place. I was curious about the big stack of rolling stock he had for sale at $15 apiece, where he had found a new supplier. I learn the Barrell Man’s wife had come across an ad in the paper. Some business in Seattle had barrells for sale at two dollars a unit. Two trips to north Seattle at the cost of nearly a day’s travel—plus the two dollar per drum outlay--yielded that big stack of barrells neatly piled along his fence. 

Now here’s the economics of doing business in the Valley. I noticed the “zero” had been smudged out and replaced with a “2.” Twelve dollars a barrell. The two dollar cost passed on to the consumer. The Barrell Man went on to explain his supplier offered to deliver the barrells for five dollars a unit. He figured—and who could blame him—his time would be better spent harvesting his walnut crop than chaperoning barrells out to the Valley. Out came the paint again. The “2”smudge became  a “5,” and it now costs us $15 for a colorful metal drum, a fifty per cent increase to those of us who desire to do a little outdoor incinerating. The Barrell Man still nets his ten dollars profit. His extra cost is passed along to us…Valley economics pure and simple.

But I don’t have to buy a barrell, and if I want one, I much prefer my money stays in the Valley than fund the lifestyle of some Big City Bank CEO. There’s value in a barrell; none whatsoever in a service charge, especially when there’s no change in the amount or quality of the service rendered. The Barrell Man’s economics I can understand. Not so The Bank’s; and I appreciate them even less.

Breaking news! Just in to The Ripple. Big City Bank of America has decided to abandon its plan to charge a five dollar monthly fee to its customers. You don’t suppose the ten thousand B of A’s clients (in our state alone) who jumped ship and defected to a credit union might be responsible for this change of heart? Apparently it was only a joke in the first place. Don’t you just love it when the consumer has the last laugh!